Connecticut entrepreneur Susan Rabinovitch launched her business SR Consulting and Moving Services LLC (dba Home to Home Moving Specialists) in December 2010. Her life lesson: It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.
Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price spoke with Susan about launching a new company taking another leap into entrepreneurship later in her career.
NAN PRICE: How did you develop the business concept for Home to Home Moving Specialists?
SUSAN RABINOVITCH: It was by accident. I was actually trying to find a job. My background is in real estate and relocation. In 2010, work in that industry was scarce unless you were in Washington, Chicago, or New York—and I did not want to relocate.
The opportunity to start helping people move came from my mother. A member of her church needed help moving into a retirement community. He was paralyzed with fear and couldn’t figure out what to do. My mother told him: Susan will come take care of it.
I met with him and he hired me to manage every aspect of his move. My background came in very handy in the process.
As I was walking out of his house with the last box, I got a call from someone else who needed help. And it began to mushroom. A marketing person from Duncaster Retirement Community in Bloomfield started referring me to residents who were moving. And, before I knew it, the idea grew into a business. Then I had to form an LLC, take out insurance, open bank accounts and develop a team.
It was almost happenstance. I had been in the real estate and relocation industry for almost 20 years. Starting to reinvent yourself at the age of 60 is not easiest thing to do. I hadn’t given any thought to this type of business until the opportunity came along.
NAN: At what point did you realize you had a viable business?
SUSAN: I wasn’t aware there was such a tremendous need. Most of my business is focused on working with seniors transitioning into retirement communities. There’s a large population starting a new phase in their lives.
The real indicator was one of the communities I worked in wanted to know if my company was insured. I hadn’t done that because, in the beginning, I was just helping people move. It suddenly dawned on me: Okay, if I need to be insured, what else do I need to do for this is be an actual business?
NAN: Tell us a little about that process.
SUSAN: My son-in-law Avi Smith-Rappaport, who owns We Care Computers, recommended an attorney. Avi does a lot of networking. My husband and I owned other businesses, including a delicatessen and bakery we ran for seven years many years ago. But this was the first time I was responsible for the legal aspect of developing a LLC.
I know you can do those things online. That’s not my nature. I like hiring people for their specialty rather. I prefer to spend my own energy doing what I know I do well. So, I met with an attorney who did all the paperwork and filing for the state.
It felt good to make the business official. Before that, everything was comingled—bank accounts, etc. I also felt much more secure knowing we were insured. At the beginning, we weren’t as involved with physically moving clients’ precious possessions, so I didn’t feel the need to be insured. But, once we started to handle people’s crystal, china, and $20,000 paintings, there was a definite need.
NAN: How are you marketing?
SUSAN: Mostly word-of-mouth and referrals from marketing professionals at many of the major retirement communities in the area. They share my information and process with new resident who are moving. I also get a lot of business through referrals from clients we’ve moved.
Right now, I’m having the first lull I’ve had in the eight years since I started the business. It’s speaking to the fact that I need to broaden my base. So, I started developing lists of different professionals I can work with. I plan on making direct contact with real estate agents—I have a large network based on my background. Geriatric doctors and attorneys working on estates can be another source.
NAN: What other types of challenges have you encountered as a business owner?
SUSAN: Putting systems in place for scheduling was a big challenge for me. When my team grew to five, it was hard to do invoicing and keep up with everyone’s hours. When it was just me, it was okay because I could do a little at a time. As the business was growing, it became obvious that I absolutely had to have systems in place. I was spending too much energy doing things the archaic way and it was taking away from my ability to provide services to more clients and our growing business.
I also needed a system to manage the materials we work with. Managing inventory is critical. Now I have a system to manage materials— and I’m sure I’m losing less money.
NAN: In our follow-up, Avi and I discussed the importance of having systems in place.
SUSAN: It’s huge. But I don’t know that you can really have all systems in place ahead of time. I think you need to be immersed into the business before you can identify your needs. It is a fluid process.
The important thing is to start assessing early on. For me, it was asking myself: Now that I’m up and running and I have the business flowing, what do I need to make it run more efficiently?
It’s helpful to reach out to others to help you with that. I’ve been very fortunate because I have a lot of people in the family who are business experts. But, reaching out to resources and sometimes spending a little money can help you make a lot more money.
NAN: Is that the biggest lesson you’ve learned along your entrepreneurial journey?
SUSAN: That and patience. I can be very strong-willed. I would say it took me a good year to be able to step back and allow my clients to make decisions for themselves about what will and will not work. And if their decision doesn’t work, we just find another solution. So, I’ve learned to listen and follow through on clients’ wishes. It’s changed the way I work with clients—and it’s made them much happier too.
We’ve moved more than 100 people in eight years and, in that time, we’ve only had two clients I didn’t enjoying working with. Otherwise, I enjoy going to work every day. What I get from my clients very often is far more than what I give. My clients are appreciative, engaging, and interesting—but every so often you hit a little challenge.
NAN: Tell us a little about the evolution over the past eight years. How has the business grown?
SUSAN: I started with only me, because there was just enough work for me to manage. We truly do full service: We pack, load, unpack, and set up. It’s taking clients from one home and creating a new home for them. I had to bring people in as the referrals came in and business started to grow.
It’s a family business, so I work with my brother, my daughter, and my husband. In May 2018, we brought in the first employee who’s not a family member. That was another challenge. This business is so hands-on and intimate, I’m reluctant to just hire someone. I only want to work with people I have confidence in, who know will take care of our clients’ needs.
NAN: In what ways does your business help support the local economy?
SUSAN: We support local businesses versus big-box corporations. Right now, we work with 15 local individual business owners, including a plumber, a handyman, a carpet/home furnishing supplier, a painter, an electrician, and a moving company. What I love about this business is, it doesn’t just support our core group, it supports a lot of individual businesses in the area. It feels good to support their economic growth.
NAN: Anything advice for others?
SUSAN: Life throws you some challenges—especially at my age. The market I had known for years, where I developed my professional success changed. I had to think of a way to reinvent myself.
I never even thought about being able to reinvent myself at this age. We’ve had several different businesses, but I hadn’t thought about stepping back and thinking about creating something new.
So, if I were to give advice to anyone: If you’re at a crossroads and trying to figure out what to do in the next phase in your life, think outside the box. Get out of your comfort zone. And change your thinking. You may think something is just a one-time opportunity, but you never know. It could blossom into something much bigger.
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